Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Leonard Cohen - one year later

Leonard Cohen died one year ago today. 

On Saturday I visited his grave site to place a small metal plaque reading "love" and was glad to see that a tombstone has now been erected for him (separate from the family one which I photographed for an earlier post).

A plaque was also laid at the foot of his grave.

Last night a tribute concert took place here in Montreal at the Bell Centre - the same venue where I saw him in 2012.  It has received excellent reviews and was organized by Cohen's son Adam.  

It was a star-studded event and will be broadcast on CBC radio 2 at 8 p.m. tonight and a televised version will be broadcast on CBC TV on January 3, 2018 at 8 p.m. (click here for details and more information).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A cautionary tale about gardens and baby voles

Last week I decided to go to the Botanical Gardens here in Montreal to hopefully photograph the last remaining butterflies of the summer.

I had just arrived and was noticing that many of the flower beds had been turned over and the annuals had been uprooted and removed.  My hopes of finding butterflies started to fade and I thought I might find a few caterpillars instead.  

I was glancing over the cool, wet earth (it had rained considerably the day before) and suddenly noticed something very small that was moving.  It was the size of a fat caterpillar but it was pink and I thought it might be some rare species.  Then I saw to my horror that it was a newborn vole.  It was completely hairless and was wriggling and squirming.  I looked around the flower bed for others and found another one that was a few feet away and saw, on closer examination, that it was bleeding. 

Now I searched frantically for more but never found any.  I took some tissues from my pocket and scooped them up to try to warm them and dry them off.  Then I called the SPCA.  The staff member at first thought that I should leave them there for the mother to find them but the whole area was denuded of cover (vegetation) and I imagined she had fled when the first spading of the earth began.  I had no way of knowing whether she would or could return (she could also have been injured) and the little ones would have died slowly of starvation and/or exposure.

The only action I felt I could take was to transport them in a tissue lined box (which I always carry in my backpack) to the SPCA for humane euthanasia.  These tiny creatures clung to each other throughout the trip and I was so saddened that I couldn't offer them anything better.

Here is a photograph from the Internet (royalty free) of a newborn vole which looks exactly like those I found.

I urge all gardeners to consider that voles can have a litter this late in the year and to take great care when removing plants.  Unfortunately voles make above-ground nests so they are very vulnerable.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Painted Ladies of Montreal

As those of you who live in or around Montreal know, there has been a huge influx of migrating Painted Lady butterflies this summer / fall.  

The last time this happened was in 2012 but I think the thousands of butterflies this year out-number that previous irruption (definition: a sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a natural population usually associated with favorable alteration of the environment)!

The Montreal Gazette published the following article:

SEPTEMBER 18, 2017

The thousands of orange butterflies being spotted all over Montreal are simply on a rest stop as they make their way down south.
And 99 per cent of them are painted ladies and not the monarch butterfly, said Maxim Larrivée of the Montreal Insectarium.
There has been some confusion over what type of butterflies were being spotted because of the colour patterns, but there are clear differences between painted ladies and monarchs, said Stephanie Boucher, curator at McGill University’s Lyman Entomological Museum.
“The painted lady butterfly is not as well known as the monarch, so that is probably why most people identify it as what they know best,” Boucher said.
“What’s really unusual is how many there are, which is really unprecedented,” Larrivée said, adding that this is the second time it happened in five years.
He said he believes they got pushed to the ground by wind during their migration to the warmer Southern U.S. climates from the Boreal Shield area. But they generally don’t stick around this long.
“But we have had this spell of amazing weather for us, that is not great migration weather for them. In the meantime, they are fuelling up on flowers, this is why we are seeing them (drinking nectar) everywhere,” Larrivée said.
Larrivée and Boucher both said the painted ladies benefit from the fact they can feed on a wide variety of plants — up to 100 according to Boucher — compared with the monarch, which feeds on milkweed.
“They can adapt to many different type of plants, so that is a great advantage,” she said.
Larrivée said the butterflies enjoyed a great winter in terms of reproduction in areas like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico. They then migrated north earlier than usual, arriving in mid-April and he thinks that gave them the time to have an extra generation, reproducing twice instead of once during the summer.
“The population was probably already big when they started coming north,” Boucher said. “The year here was also a good one for them for breeding and reproducing with all the rain we got.”
Now with everyone being outside thanks to the great weather, they are being spotted everywhere.
“It’s pretty hard to be in a bad mood when you are surrounded by butterflies. It’s fantastic. It’s different,” Larrivée said.
Now they are waiting for “winds that they are going to be able to surf back to the south,” Larrivée said, ideally blowing from the northeast to the southwest.

By Kevin Mio, Montreal Gazette.

Here is a selection of photographs that I have taken in various areas on the island of Montreal in the last few weeks:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Rare Sighting Of A Peacock

This posting is for my faithful fellow blogger, Flighty.  In his blog (https://flightplot.wordpress.com), he has occasionally mentioned the Peacock Butterfly.  In fact, his photograph of one made me familiar with its beautiful wing markings and made me wish that I would some day see one.  This was very unlikely because it is a European butterfly and, as far as I knew, was not to be found in North America.

Well ...

In late July I was strolling through the Montreal Botanical Gardens looking for anything to photograph and I came to a bush with lovely purple flowers with butterflies fluttering in large numbers all over it!  I saw Painted Lady butterflies and Red Admiral butterflies and then I noticed something unusual. I went in close and saw to my astonishment, the butterfly that Flighty has blogged about! It was gorgeous.  

In getting photographs I stalked this poor creature to the point that it finally perched high up in a tree and I'm sure it was giving me a stern butterfly glare!

After doing some reading on-line I have since found out that an individual Peacock butterfly was first recorded in the Montreal area in 1997 and, in the twenty years hence, less than two dozen have been recorded in eastern Canada.

Here is an interesting article: http://m.espacepourlavie.ca/blogue/en/a-european-butterfly-quebec

Thank you Flighty for introducing me to this beautiful butterfly and thus making my sighting all the more exciting!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I found my heart!

If you recall, I wrote a post in April of last year in which I mourned the loss of a heart-shaped stone which my Dad had given me several years ago:  http://dorispotter.blogspot.ca/2016/04/losing-my-heart.html

Well, I am very happy to say that I have found it! It was in my purse all this time (but deep within a zippered pocket).  I really don't know how I didn't find it when I was searching everywhere - including my purse (where I had originally put it)!

The unusual thing is that I had had a very interesting conversation with an artist/photographer earlier that day and she is known for "seeing" hearts in nature (for example, the way tree branches arc together).  

In fact, she showed me a beautiful image she captured of her reflection in a heart-shaped puddle and a series of photographs of a candle flame in which there is a clear image of a red heart at the center of the flame.  That very night I happened to go to my purse to retrieve earrings I had put in the pocket and lo and behold pulled out my precious stone heart!

I am thrilled to feel its cool, smooth surface again.  :-)

Saturday, August 12, 2017


On my way for breakfast this morning, I came across several writings on the sidewalks and intersections in my neighbourhood that touched me. 

In a two block area, someone named Flakito poured out his heart to someone named Lucille (a.k.a. Blue, a.k.a. Boo Boo) asking for forgiveness.

Some of the words had letters that seemed to fall off the edge of the sidewalks, one ("Do I still ...") was left unfinished, some were poetic, all were passionate and one was profane. 

Although I don't know the order in which they were written, I have given them an order here. The ones that might not be legible have captions.


I had a rainbow but I was color blind

I miss you Boo Boo (heart)

One Last Chance Lucille - Flakito

Hold your Hand One Last time on this walkway

Do I still

Blue and Flakito through Life

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rare and Unusual Bird Sightings

This winter has been exciting with several sightings of interesting birds.  Most were sighted in the Ile St-Bernard Nature Park (south of Montreal) and one rarity was found on Mount Royal (smack in the middle of Montreal)!

From what I have read, the Townsend's Solitaire is a western bird which rarely travels east of Manitoba. However it has been found on Mount Royal for a number of years now and I was very lucky to find it recently.  It is an active bird which helped to make it quite obvious to me and I managed a quick shot.

Townsend's Solitaire, Myadestes townsendi

There was great excitement for a few weeks as up to four Great Gray Owls spent some time at Ile St-Bernard.

Great Gray Owl, Strix nebulosa

The following birds were also found at Ile St-Bernard.  This is at the northern part of their range.  Many birds are expanding their ranges northward and will probably become more and more common.

Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus

Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

Friday, January 13, 2017

Leonard Cohen - revisited

My previous post was illustrated with photographs of Leonard Cohen's house taken on November 25, 2016.  I revisited his house three days later and again on January 6, 2017 and would like to share more photos taken on those two occasions.  As you will see, many more flowers and oranges were left at the house.

Also, I want to mention a wonderful Christmas gift that I received from my thoughtful and generous sister, Diane.  The photograph above is of this gift which is her painting of Cohen superimposed with many of the words of my favourite song of his, "Alexandra Leaving".  

She painstakingly searched for a still image from one of his videos and then took on the arduous and time-consuming process of painting the image and merging it with the text.  I am so touched by the thoughtfulness of this gift and so awed by the final result.

I left a small copy of this painting within a gazebo in the park opposite his house where the tributes have been moved. 


This last photograph is of a tiny, clinging vine on the bricks of his house.  I'm sure there is a metaphor here and were I to have the talent of Leonard Cohen, maybe I could write a poem about it.  Perhaps it would deal with the tenacity and subtle beauty of this little hardy plant as it spreads itself in space and time. I think many of these qualities exist in Cohen's works.